Alpha House (IHN)

In a given week, it is estimated that more than 200,000 children nationally have no place to live. Over the course of a year, as many as 1.4 million children experience homelessness.  At least one fifth of children who are homeless do not attend school and more than one fourth have attended three or more schools in a year.  Homeless children go hungry at twice the rate of other children.  They also experience illness such as stomach problems, ear infections, and asthma at higher rates. Nearly 25% have witnessed acts of violence in their families, usually against their mothers. They experience physical and sexual abuse at two to three times the rate of other children. In one year, 22% of homeless children spend some time apart from their immediate family, with 12% being placed in foster care. Interfaith Hospitality Network was formed to address this problem in as it affects Washtenaw County residents.

Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) is a consortium of over 30 local congregations of various denominations that volunteer to serve the needs of homeless families in Washtenaw County.

Outreach Project Purpose:

The mission of IHN is to provide temporary shelter, food and support services in a caring atmosphere of dignity and safety. The shelter is Alpha House, which is located on Jackson Road on the West side of Ann Arbor. During the period of a year, Alpha House provides a safe place for over 135 children and adults, serves 22,000 meals and responds to approximately 400 calls from families seeking shelter.

Accomplishments to Date:

As a member of the IHN consortium, FUMC assures that the mission of Alpha House is served through the volunteer efforts of our congregation.  Each congregation serves on a rotating basis, a week at a time. In the past, FUMC has served three times a year, in November, February, and June.

It takes over 80 volunteers to make our week of hosting possible. Each week of hosting requires that volunteers provide a hot meal each evening, be on hand to serve dinner and eat with the families, and clean up after dinner.  In addition, activity volunteers play with the children each evening after dinner, which provides time for the parents to do their own chores or attend required meetings.  A volunteer is also needed to stay overnight to support the Alpha House staff person working the night shift.  In addition, each congregation provides food for lunches and supplies needed during their host week.

Project Goals:  

For each of the three weeks we host at Alpha House every year we need apporximately 80 volunteers who provide:

  • Dinner each night for approximately 25 children and adults, including a main entree, salad, starch, fruit, and beverage
  • Volunteers to serve the dinners each night
  • Activity volunteers to supervise the children during each evening
  • Overnight volunteers who remain at Alpha House throughout the night to assist with any emergencies
  • A Lead Volunteer each night to coordinate the activities of FUMC volunteers
  • We also provide breakfast, lunch and other items for the residents of Alpha House during our Host Week—the list of needed supplies contains a minimum of 35 essential food, cleaning, and personal items, which members of FUMC may sign up to donate

FUMC volunteer coordinator for IHN/Alpha House
Beth Lipton ( turboteach@aol.com   734-665-9033)